Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oil Creek 100 - "So What Happened?"

I hadn't planned to write about the Oil Creek 100. Heck, what's there to say? I didn't finish. I've been asked what happened by some and I've thought about it and I still don't have much to say, but here goes.

Oil Derricks In The Distance at Benninghoff Farm

This was to be my running high point for 2014. I had fun and finished strong at The Laurel Highlands Ultra, had a mellow July training-wise and got back at it in August. I fought through some Plantar Fasciitis as September waned towards October, but I felt pretty well prepared to take on the 100 miles in Oil Creek State Park. The Saturday before the event (yes one week out) I came down with some sort of stomach virus/flu-like sickness. It knocked me flat. I couldn't get out of bed Sunday or Monday. Wednesday I forced myself to go for an easy run and "weak" is the only word to describe it. Janice told me later that all week she was expecting me to tell her I was pulling the plug. Looking back on it, I probably should have. I was tight as a drum when we arrived at the pre-race dinner/packet pickup. I saw others who I had looked forward to seeing, but couldn't bring myself to talk to them. I was working too hard to fake myself into believing that I felt fine and ready. I feared if I talked to someone they'd figure me out as an imposter. So there ya' have it. Not much to say about it. I got sick as a dog, but still went to Titusville, thinking maybe just maybe I'd be able to will myself to the finish line. Nope! Didn't work! Lesson learned, don't show up a week after being stuck sick in bed and expect to be able to perform.

Darkest before dawn.

I did actually run some. The race got off to a good start for me, I kept an eye on my pace so as not to get sucked into a pace faster than I could sustain. I had planned to try to take about 8ish hours for each 50k lap. 43° at start time dropped to 39° before sun up. I like temperatures in the low 40's but today I couldn't keep warm. I was wearing a long sleeved shirt, but my arms were so cold they felt numb and so did my hands. Thinking of so many other things, I never saw this as a sign that something was wrong. I just figured I was cold. Janice met me at a water station which was spectacular because she gave me a pair of gloves and of all things I had again forgotten to take alergy medicine and my breathing wasn't 100%. The gloves seemed to bring some warmth I needed (and temps climbed to 50°) and for the remainder of the first 31 miles, my hands and arms started to feel normal again. I completed the first lap in about 8 hours so I was fine, I thought.

"Your mountain is waiting, get on your way!"

I put on a couple of dry shirts at Aid Station #4 and started the second lap continuing to convince myself that I could stick to my 8ish hour lap plan. I arrived at Aid Station #2 about 15 minutes slower than I had in the morning, but still nothing to worry about. The sun was setting and the forecasted cold overnight temperatures would soon be on us so I changed clothing completely. Top to bottom - a light winter hat, a lycra long sleeved base layer, a whicking layer over that and a light wind jacket to top it off and I ditched my shorts for tights. With a dry set of gloves and my headlamp, I took off to finish the lap.

Layered & Prepped For The Cold

Probably around 50 miles, the sun had dropped to a level that I needed to turn on my headlamp. It seemed like flipping that switch to "on" was like switching my switch to "off". Everything started going wrong. I had been running pretty confidently and now I was tripping and stumbling over everything. I banged a toe badly on my left foot. I banged my right foot so hard I felt like my hip dislocated. The only thing that took my mind off the hip pain was the hit I took to my head on the tree that caught my fall. The bottom had fallen out of my strength and coordination so I decided to slow down. Now even though I had slowed down, I seemed to have no energy. I had eaten pretty well all day, but I had zilch. Still I didn't think of this as a sign of anything. The offical temperature in the area eventually dropped to 30° over night and now that I was going slower I was feeling it. I was back to not being able to generate enough watts to keep my core temperature up. I just kept telling myself that I had more/warmer clothing for the third lap so I thought I could just gut it out.

I arrived at Aid Station #3 and cut off times were being discussed and all of a sudden it hit me. I had slowed down so much that I had placed myself outside the cutoff times. Doing the math based on my current snail's pace, I could start the last lap and make it to Aid Station #2 in time (maybe), but I'd get pulled at Aid Station #3. My plan for 8 hour laps was fine as long as I didn't fall out of that time frame badly and here I had. Getting to the Start/Finish/Aid Station #4 in one piece was now all that mattered to me. All energy was gone and I was cold to a point that the possibility of hypothermia was real. I dropped at Aid Station #4. Standing talking to the kind race volunteer, I noticed how the Middle School lawn had frozen and I just couldn't wait to get warm. Janice piled me into the Jeep and we drove for nearly an hour before we found a hotel. I finally regained a normal body temperature after a hot shower.

The bottom line here is that I guess I need to admit that I never completely recovered from being sick. It never dawned on me that, "hey maybe you can't keep warm because you're not healthy". I couldn't figure out that a complete loss of energy around mile 50 might've had something to do with still being sick.

I had planned for this year to be my last serious year of trying to be an ultra runner and a 100 miler seemed like a nice way to go out. I've got plenty of other fond ultra memories and accomplishments  that I can comfortably finish this chapter. I am running the Stone Mill 50 next month though. I had fun there last year and it gives us a chance to see Niece Heather and her Husband Jim who live nearby.

Man I had a great time, but our family could probably function better without an ultra runner in the home. Our kayaks hang too much and float too little. I really need to reconnect with backpacking and knock off some more states along the Appalachian Trail. Those are just a couple fun things that ultra running has gotten in the way of. Heck, maybe next year I'll do that end to end paddle of the Susquehanna River I've always wanted to do. I've only completed PA and NJ, so maybe I should finish NY and add CT to the list of Appalachian Trail States I've trekked. I'd also like to fast pack the Horse Shoe Trail end to end some weekend. Wow, this list is growing. Ha ha! 2015's gonna be a blast!

Some cool photos Janice captured in and around Titusville, Oil City & Oil Creek State Park:

A Saturday auction.

Welcome to Titusville.

A wheel inside a building with trees inside the wheel.




Monday, September 8, 2014

Susquehanna Super Hike - My DNF Race Report

September 6, 2014

During my commute to work this morning I heard this report on WITF about the Bird In Hand Half Marathon this past Saturday:

Dozens treated for heat issues at midstate half-marathon
Written by The Associated Press | Sep 8, 2014 12:55 AM

(Bird-In-Hand) -- Dozens of runners required medical treatment for heat-related problems during a half-marathon on a hot and humid day in Lancaster County. More than 50 people received help at medical tents during and after the Bird-in-Hand half-marathon on Saturday. A few of the runners were taken to nearby hospitals for additional help. The problems included dehydration and heat exhaustion, as temperatures in the 80s mixed with very muggy conditions. A race organizer says many of the runners simply slowed down because of the weather.

Saturday was a hot humid day for sure. One of the most humid I can ever remember. A powerful humidity that could seemingly dominate a human into submission. Saturday also saw the running of the Susquehanna Super Hike and Ultra Trail Run in the Lower Susquehanna River Gorge less than 20 miles away from the lovely Lancaster County town of Bird In Hand. The difference between the events was primarily the distance and the terrain. While the Bird In Hand Half is 13.1 miles run on a gentle rolling road course through scenic Amish countryside, The Super Hike covers 23.4 or 29.6 miles on rugged trails through steep rocky hills. Stories of the predicted epic weather filled the news in the days leading up to the weekend so when I hit the road from home at 4am and saw that the temperature was already 73° I wasn't surprised. The forecast offered a high temperature of 90° with matching dew points leading into the certainty of late afternoon violent thunder storms.

The Susquehanna Super Hike is where ultra running started for me back in 2010. That year it was 28+ miles and I hadn't even run a marathon yet. I totally loved the event. To me, the route is beyond compare. It uses two trails on the Lancaster and York County sides of the Susquehanna River. Back then it started at The Otter Creek Camp Ground in Airville, PA in York County and after heading south/down-river on The Mason Dixon Trail and a crossing of the Norman Wood Bridge high above the Holtwood Dam, you finished at The Pequea Creek Camp Ground after some extremely hilly miles on The Connestoga Trail in Lancaster County. This year the route was reversed putting the nasty hills in the opening miles and a previously opening 6+ mile loop was now at the end giving the organizers the opportunity to offer two distances for participants. The reversal of the course sounded like a brilliant idea to me and I was in.

I've never run an ultra without some sort of support. I've run two when Janice couldn't come along, but both times my Niece Heather and her Husband Jim were able to stand in for her and crew for me. This day would certainly be different, I was going 100% alone. No big deal, it wasn't even a 50k. I prepared everything I needed the night before so I could limit the amount of predawn disruption I would cause in the sleeping household. Tiptoeing around the house I kept catching myself forgetting things. Unfortunately the last thing I caught was that I forgot to take the medicine I take to fight Allergy Onset Asthma. I say unfortunately because I was already a few miles down the road trying to figure out how to keep my windshield clear in the morning's foggy humidity. I wasn't turning around, I would just have to get by without it.

Parked In

Still in the September morning darkness, I arrived at The Pequea Creek Camp Ground a little after 6am. Parking was a surprise, we were directed down an open row which already had cars parked on either side. I wondered where we were going and then realized we were being instructed to park head to tail between those rows, essentially parking ourselves in. If there was an emergency, the cars in my row were not going anywhere. Registration went quickly and I found a truck going to the finish
line to take a drop bag with a change of clothes for afterwards. I met Steve the guy who I was chasing before I capsized at The Chiques Challenge and his better half Cassie. Talked with Rik and got to see an Eastern States 100 shirt close up on Zach. It was the typical casual pre-race chatter and all in all, I felt pretty good.

After a welcome from The Keystone Trails Association President and some brief announcements, we were off. The opening mile is flat and follows the creek to the river. I knew this would be my fastest mile on the day and I planned to stay around a 10 minute mile pace just to get in front of some of the folks who wanted to hike. The humidity seemed to increase exponentially all of a sudden. Just as suddenly, my lungs closed shut. Clamped. Couldn't breath. Done. Yep, I had gone just over 1/2 mile and I couldn't take a breathe, my head was spinning and I was dizzy and about to fall to the ground. We reached a section of pavement where the course makes a u-turn to take us to the trail and I stopped running and walked as best I could. So much for going without my medicine. Man, I had really screwed up. My race was over and I needed to go back to my car, but remembered I was parked in. That emergency was happening. I kept walking and shortly after hitting the trail I found a rock to sit on. My brain was scrambled, I knew if I went back to my car I would be stuck there and I knew if I tried to continue I could end up in an ER. I continued, walking, stopping and sitting. I watched as runners passed, hikers passed, slow hikers passed and even the folks who were afraid they wouldn't finish passed. I was now without a clue, so at the 2 mile mark, I dug my cell phone out of my hydration vest and called Janice. Of course, I had no real idea what time it was and I woke her up. How she could help me was unknown as well, but I do know when my life is sucking, she's who I need on the other end of the telephone. I'm not even sure what we said, but talking with her made this break my longest so far and I felt a little better so I got up and walked more. Each time I would try to run or even walk a little faster or we would hit the smallest of hills, my lungs would rebel and my dizziness would send me searching for a tree to lean on or a rock for my butt. Hiker after hiker asked me if I was ok. It became amusing to watch their looks when I would answer, "no". I explained to one person that I have Allergy Onset Asthma and forgot to take my medicine. Suddenly I heard a young woman say that the man with her was a Respiratory Therapist. So perfect, now I was hullucinating too. He reminded me that high humidity also aggravates my condition. He offered me a puff on a rescue inhaler, it didn't look at all like mine, but he said the magic word "Albuterol" and I was on that thing like an addict. My lungs opened and my head was back and I started with a quick walk that evolved into an easy run. Wow, maybe I had just been saved.

That euphoria was short and a little more than a half mile more down the trail my lungs closed again and I caught myself on a tree before falling. Now my mind was made up, I'd get to the first checkpoint at 7.16 miles (The Pinnacle) and drop out. I walked into the checkpoint handed in my number and laid down in the grass and waited for a ride back to the start. I sent a text to Janice letting her know my day was done. I was told it would be a while and as I waited, others collected facing the same fate. On the ground as the minutes passed, my lungs started to breath easier. Two women who were sitting near me comiserating about their early dismissal from the event caused me to wonder what the heck was I doing sitting there? I was here for the fun of it. I was here because this event and these trails had held a spot in my heart. This event was not a goal, I know I can do this. This event was a training step on my way to my real goal, the Oil Creek 100 next month. I've learned enough to know that I'm not going to finish a hundred without experiencing and pushing through at least one bad patch during the event. Sitting on the ground waiting for a ride is not part of that equation. Just then I noticed Janice had answered my text and something snapped. That was all I needed to ask for my number back. I said I was going to push to the next checkpoint and see what happened from there. The check point leader was concerned, reminding me that I looked pretty awful when I arrived, but he gave me my number.

I walked and even ran a little. When my lungs labored and the light headedness returned, I managed it by walking or stopping. I guess I forgot to mention that I ran the month of August with Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot. I altered my gate and ran through it (266+ miles). I was finally able to visit the Podiatrist Thursday evening, less than 2 days prior to this event. The doc informed me that this visit was different from my previous check ins with him. Previously PF pain had manifested itself in the arch of my foot and this time it was the classic heal pain. He informed me that while the injection would alleviate the pain, I could experience some lingering pain from the 3 injection sites. I made it to the Holtwood Rec area, not a checkpoint, but it was a manned water station just prior to a lot of downhill to the next checkpoint. I found myself actually running and I began to notice that my stride was resembling my normal non-Plantar Fasciitis stride for the first time in a month. Great right? Well, my left calf muscle was wondering what the heck had happened and started to feel the difference in my gate and I could feel the beginning of a knot. On top of that, that probable pain from the injection was now a reality. Oddly, this added discomfort seemed to help me with the fact that I couldn't consistently fill my lungs with air. I had a couple things to manage now and it seemed to help me mentally. Because I was in more dicomfort I had more to think about besides my wheezing and collapsing lungs and that seemed to help. Yeah, you figure it out.

I had left The Pinnacle with folks who were worried about making the 12 hour cutoff, got to Lock 12 and those around me were talking about an 11 hour finish and I reached the last checkpoint at Posey Road hearing folks talking about being bummed about missing a 9 hour finish. I was asked if I was doing the long distance (29.6 miles) or the short distance and I was now convinced that I'd make that decision when I reached The Otter Creek Camp Ground - [you could stop there with 23.4 miles or continue for an additional loop totalling 29.6 miles]. Walkng, running, leaning, wheezing and sitting was now my process and I knew I'd at least make it to the camp.

At Lock 12 I sent a text to Janice to let her know I got my number back and I noticed my phone said it was 91° in Holtwood - at the Posey Road checkpoint a guy said his dashboard thermometer read 93° - it was definitely cooking up to that explosive afternoon the weatherman had promised. While on Posey Road, the course gains elevation and presents a wonderful 360° view. With that view came the reality that the forecasted violent storm was not far. The stacking clouds looked amazing. Off the road and along a corn field and back into the forest and in no time, winds picked up, thunder was pounding and lightning was striking. Tree debris was falling and it was now pouring. My mind was easily made up to cut the day short, so I DNF'd the 29.6 mile distance. Urey Overlook isn't Handies Peak, but I just didn't think it was wise to head to high ground as lightning was striking so I wussed out and called it a day at 23.4 miles. The down pours continued and came and went. I made a call to Janice to let her know my whereabouts. I found my drop bag and was able to clean up and change in the camp's shower house. After a raucous bus ride in the pouring rain, I was back to the Jeep and headed home.

Dog Therapy

That hot humid Saturday was quite the trying day on so many levels. Sunday I woke up with my lungs still agitated and somewhat clogged. My medication and a couple puffs on my inhaler fixed that. We took Mollie, Mojo and their cousins Shakespeare and Brickle to their favorite doggy swimming hole. Later I went for an easy run to get it all out of my lungs, legs and mind. I ran into a couple hikers with a big black and white dog who seemed like such a sweetheart. We met in a tight section of trail on a climb and I had moved aside to let them pass. The dog sniffed and licked my knee. The hiker apologized, he had no idea how much I appreciated his big adorable dog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

4th Annual Chiques Challenge - Race Report - Run Then Kayak (& this year I added a swim stage)

August 9, 2014

The Chiques Challange is maybe the most fun event I've ever done. Run 4+ miles and then get in a kayak and paddle 2+ miles. It's hosted by the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center and billed as a race, but having fun is encouraged and the only true requirement. With only a few awards given, there's competition, but it's low key at best.

This is the fourth year I've participated. Since its inception, the event has fallen on the same day as Janice's family reunion so we've made the Chiques Challenge part of the family day. Having 5 of us run and kayak two years ago, until this year we never had less than 3 of us participating. We've also taken it even less seriously than the event hosts probably expect. Once in the kayak, our fastest runners would wait somewhere on the river while the rest of the paddling family members catch up. We would then paddle to the finish line together. We carry squirt guns in our boats as bilge pumps. Those "bilge pumps" of course double for a fun time squirting one another as we go down the lazy Susquehanna. After our first silly appearance in 2011, we dubbed ourselves as Team Squirt Gun. We had also made it tradition to finish in numerical order. Yep, you could be sure to leave us off the list of "game facers" who had shown up for their beloved PR's.

This year was unfortunately entirely different. Becky (the fastest runner of Team Squirt Gun) is in Arizona, Grant (who claims he's faster than Becky) is in Nashville, Katie (our Pitt nursing student - kept it quiet <from me at least> that she would be in town for the weekend), Janice (said she'd have to walk it and she claimed that "nobody ever walks the Chiques Challenge") and  with all that said, that left me to carry on the tradition of our family participating (and I almost didn't get registered).


Having my registration accepted(even a week after the registration had closed) I decided since I was going it alone this year, I'd try to complete it as fast as possible. My events of choice are ultra trail races, measured typically in hours and dozens of miles and "fast" really isn't something I ever consider. This day to make Team Squirt Gun proud and say thanks for letting me register so late, I'd give the "fast" thing a shot.

The run isn't but it feels mostly downhill. The run starts at the Marietta River Park back off of Vinegar Ferry Road. The course is on paved surfaces, running along the Susquehanna River on the Northwest Trail and then the streets of Marietta to the Marietta Boat Launch. My watch measured it this year as 4.29 miles. I ate too many hot wings Friday night, I got out of the house late and I felt rushed/slightly tired already when I finally got off the school bus shuttle at the start line.

I decided to start off comfortably and wind up my pace to something that felt sustainable. I started my watch, but never looked at it, and running solely on feel I finished the run portion in 32:40. I passed a bunch of folks and didn't get passed so I felt pretty good about the first half of the challenge. There was only one runner I was chasing who I never caught and he was wearing an orange shirt (fore shadowing).


Arriving at the kayak staging area under 33 minutes, there were still a lot of boats there. I was happy that my bib number 80 put my boat out on the end of the last row, making it quite easy to grab my paddle, PFD and kayak and take off towards the launch. In the transition I saw that I passed at least two others, but stalled at the water's edge, I couldn't get my life vest on. It's required that you wear it so I struggled to get it over my shoulders and as a volunteer approached to help, I finally got it on, but it wouldn't close. Off I paddled leaving one guy struggling to wiggle his boat into the water and passing another and still chasing the guy in the orange shirt just a few boat lengths ahead. I passed a few other paddlers, figuring I'd work as hard as I could until my deltoids imploded and I'd simply finish by drifting. I noticed that the fellow in the orange shirt had taken a line farther "river right" and I wondered  why he was over there seemingly adding distance to the finish. I also noticed that I was catching and passing boats and now I could only see a few kayaks between me and the finish line.

I was approaching a swift spot and I could see a woman stuck on a rock. As she wiggled free, I saw the orange shirt guy come in from the right having effectively avoided this tight spot. I thought, "cool, I've cut the corner on him and now I'm right behind him". As that thought fleeted, I entered a chute which added speed to my boat and shot me right at the rock where the woman had been. The Susquehanna River is excellent for recreational kayaking, it's wide, flat and lazy with nothing more than little ripples here and there. I've paddled on the Susquehanna River and this particular area many times. The difference today was that I was paddling as fast as I could. When I typically see a hazard, I'm going slowly enough to easily get around it safely. Along with my excited paddling, the little pinch of rocks that caused the chute also added speed and I was shoved swiftly right into the rock, striking the left side of the bow of my boat and I was rolling over in what seemed like seconds. My boat took on a little water, but I was able to get back in and in no time, the next rock was rolling me right back over again. Now I was in a bit of trouble. I've had training in water craft rescue, but now I was the one needing help. As I was bouncing  off rocks, I was trying to keep my head above water and fighting to keep my boat from swamping and I heard a voice say, "get over to this eddy and you'll be able to get back in". At the start line, we were reminded that volunteers from Chiques Rock Outfitters and Shank's Mare Outfitters would be on the water as guides and help should any of us need it. A woman standing next to me told me her husband had capsized during last year's race. All I could wonder was who the heck capsizes on this mellow river at this mellow event?...and here I was... The voice guiding me to the eddy was one of those volunteers announced at the start. I told him my boat was swamping and asked if he could help me. He was quick to remind me that my PFD should be secured (he was oh so right). This savior helped me to empty most of the water, right the kayak and get me back in. While doing all that he also adjusted the strap on the life vest so it actually clipped (it's my vest - I'm not sure who wore it last, but they were definitely tiny).

While flopping against rocks I watched as boat after boat passed me by and all I could think of was, "so much for going fast". Now I was back afloat, the guy in the orange shirt was long gone and my left shoulder and right side felt like I had been playing football instead of being out for a lazy paddle. Now instead of seeing only six or seven boats between me and the finish, all I could do now was dread how far I still had to go. My pity party ended quickly and I decided to go back to paddling as hard as I could and I did eventually reach the finish line at Columbia River Park.

I was officially 20th place with a total overall time of 1:03:27(32:40run/30:47kayak) - the fellow I was chasing wearing the orange shirt finished 4th/8 minutes ahead of me... Oh well...

The Event:

I can't say enough about how much I owe the young fellow who helped me out of peril. I did find him later and thanked him again, but I still felt foolish and embarrassed for being so unsafe and placing us both in that predicament.

This year the Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center's event was poorly attended and their disappointment was evident. The field is limited to 150 and this year only 80 registered with 74 participating. I can't say "thank you" enough to the volunteer who got me out of that watery jam, but I can blog about the event in hopes of a bigger field for 2015. I plan to field as many of my crew as possible next year. If you're looking for a truly fun event next August,come down to Columbia and have fun at The Chiques Challenge, I highly recommend it!

Fun Tech Note:

For the first time I had a reason to use the multi-sport function on my Suunto Ambit2 S watch. Set up prior to the event, with the simple press of a button, my running and paddling were measured as two separate efforts combined to make up the multi-sport event. (The sad part is seeing the time gap at about the mid-point of the paddle where it's evident that I was going nowhere for several minutes while floundering on the rocks.) There's always next year...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Laurel Highlands Ultra Race Report - 2014 - 70.5 Miles of Smiles

The Laurel Highlands Ultra seems to have become quite the popular event, selling out quickly with rumors of needing a lottery in the future. To make matters more urgent, it's now been given its overdue props by being added to the Western States 100 Endurance Run's list of qualifying events. I ran it last year. I finished, but with a terribly bitter taste in my mouth. Janice, my loving, loyal and overly reliable crew/life-mate had a horrible day driving in those mountains. I had enough things go wrong that I turned my day on the trail into a suffer-fest as well. Back in December when registration opened, Janice didn't know it, but I decided I needed to return to right those wrongs and have the fun in The Laurel Highlands we should've had last year. I'd do it one more time and give the future running of this storied event to the fasties attempting to be chosen for Western States.


Even though Dakota Jones doesn't think too highly of our mountains here in the East, The Laurel Highlands are nothing to take lightly. The roads commonly have extra lanes on the steep climbs so trucks can make it, cell signal is nothing more than a battery sapping dream in most places and resupply of any kind is sparse at best. In case you didn't notice, I'm not talking about the trail, I'm referencing just some of the pain you have to go through driving while crewing. Last year so many things went wrong for Janice while chasing me, I decided this year I would take an overkill approach to giving her the information and support she could rely on to get through the day. This year, the GPS had the aid station coordinates preprogrammed to eliminate reliance on smart phones. I purchased a Spot Messenger and I planned to send her a message with my position with two miles to go before each aid station. That way she wouldn't be guessing my arrival times. That would also allow her to hopefully get some sleep while waiting at the finish line. She had multiple paper maps and printed pages of addresses of food and gas locations in case the electronics let her down. I also didn't forget to refill the gas tank after dinner this year. Janice also claimed bedtime was too late last year so we got dinner done earlier and cut out our tourist visit to look at the falls (we did not however cut out our visit to the Christian W. Klay Winery next door to the hotel). Instead of after dinner, Friday morning I did stuff like mixing GU Roctane, prepping hydration vests and a crew bag. She stressed that last year her fatigue made her an exhausted mess by the time I finished. Hopefully this year with precautions in place, I'd be the only one too tired to function at day's end. We did repeat a couple things that worked well last year: we ate at Fabrizi's, and stayed at The Lodge at Chalk Hill.

Pop Robin delivering dinner above our deck at The Lodge at Chalk Hill


Last year, we went with a two vest system that worked so well, Janice more resembled an Indy Pit Crew than the typical ultra crew. I would arrive at an aid station to find Janice waiting with a full hydration vest, dropped the empty vest while she'd put the new one on me and off I went. Efficient right? Well yes, but maybe too efficient. I was flying through aid stations, in some places forgetting to eat and just not benefitting from a few moments of stopping. I also did not swap vests with her at the first aid station which proved to be a mistake so this year every time I'd see her we'd swap whether I was empty or not. Last year I saw a woman pass me more than once and I wondered, "why am I seeing her again?" I didn't remember passing her, "where'd she come from?" It dawned on me, she was actually taking a brief recharge break at aid stations, heck I even noticed she was dressed differently; she was changing clothes. Last year at mile 57 I simply changed socks and felt like a million bucks so this year on top of actually pausing at aid stations, I had a complete change of clothes(including shoes) in Janice's crew bag.


The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail has plenty of climbing and much of it's worst ascents are in the first 9 miles. There's a climb at mile 6 that much resembles a couple of hills I train on here at home. When I'm training at home, I charge up them in a strong power hike and I figured why not do the same on this climb? Well, when I'm "charging" up them at home, I don't have 60 more miles to go. That little stunt last year put me in such debt the rest of the day, the struggle just to finish was nasty. On top of the physical mess I created, last year my brain was fried as well. That nasty struggle mostly existed between miles 35 and 46, so on top of conserving on those early climbs. At the 32 mile aid station I had learned of all of Janice's problems on the morning and that weighed heavy on top of my own problems. I knew I needed to do something different this year in those middle-miles to keep my head out of a straight jacket.


Checked the weather a week prior to the event, 78° High Humidity & Thunder Storms was the forecast. I thought, "oh boy it's going to be hot this year". In most of Pennsylvania, pouring rains filled the week leading into the event. Even Friday night in Ohiopyle an impressive storm drenched the region and with it came a wonderfully cool forecast for Saturday. In fact the temperatures in the 60's much resembled last year's which were quite pleasant placing worries of heat firmly in the rearview mirror.

The new visitor center in Ohiopyle is now complete, so parking at the start was much easier than last year and like last year we were greeted with a misty morning fog, but thankfully all the storms had bid us farewell. Even in the 5am darkness, the rapids and falls at Ohiopyle were a powerful sight to see (and hear) with the recent influx of rainfall. It was cool to see Bryon Powell with iRunFar ("here") at the start line, I was hoping I'd get a chance to meet him, but oh well it didn't happen. Check-in/number pick up was easy and at 5:30am after a prayer for all of us we a simple "go".

The rain swollen Youghiogheny at Ohiopyle.

Trotting easily through Ohiopyle on about 3/4 mile of road, I felt odd like it was going to be one of those runs that takes me a forever to get warmed up. My knees felt grumpy and my breathing was a mess, but I at least know to just ride it out because both will settle. Todd Lewis passed me like I was standing still right at Wilderness Voyageurs. Knowing that our finishing times are often similar, I wondered, "wow, just how slow am I going?" I talked myself out of concern remembering my plan to cruise easily up the mountain as a plan to have a better day later and I relaxed. I watched numerous folks attacking those climbs wondering if I'd see them later. I never did feel good until the check point at 19 miles so perhaps my inability to get warmed up was a blessing in disguise because arriving there 13 minutes slower than last year was exactly what I was looking for.

At the 11 mile aid station I met Janice and swapped vests, ate food even though I didn't feel hungry and she sent me on my way. I was already drinking a lot of GU Roctane and into my hourly Gel/Electrolyte Capsule schedule and a salt tablet every other hour. I felt like I should worry about the cut off at the 19 mile check point, but I wasn't as slow as I thought. Besides, along with Janice, the effervescent Leon Lutz was there as well; so I knew if they tried to pull me I could sneak out while those two discussed the matter in depth with the check point boss (just kidding). For those who don't know my girl Janice or Leon, getting supported by or just running into personalities like theirs in a difficult event like this one can be an enormous shot of positive mojo. They don't even charge for the love they exude - pretty cool!


Another PA runner Ben Mazur was there crewing for Todd Lewis and I ran into him at the 26 mile Seven Springs Ski Resort Aid Station. It very cool to see a familiar face there considering Janice would be skipping this one, waiting for me at the next. Todd had breezed through there way ahead of me, so Ben was just chilling at the aid station - I reminded him that he had passed me near there last year, his iPhone App was talking to him as he went by me. Approaching the aid station at 32 miles, three or four 50kers swept past me. Those kids were cookin'! (along with the 70.5 mile race there's a 50k as well and team relay events in each distance - so four races in one really) The aid stations at this event are staffed by caring and knowledgeable volunteers who refuse to let you go with unmet needs.  While I don't recommend it, the well run, well placed aid stations and the ability to use drop bags at two later locations allow runners to go without a crew. This is a difficult trail that no matter how you look at it, it's 70 miles long, Janice has crewed for me both years and if for nothing more than piece of mind; having that support is invaluable.

An aid station open for business & buzzing.

Well, I guess I couldn't get through a blog post without complaining about runners who babble loudly while running. This event had them too.

I learned something here though:

1. When runners are talking(yelling), if you're behind them they're not as loud. 
2. I also learned (especially later in the day) I'm not alone when it comes to being annoyed by those who clamber on loudly about mundane crap while they're running.

NOTE: Janice will tell you, I talk way too much and it's probably true, but when I'm in the forest, the forest is why I'm there - I'm not there to hear about your kid's bad grades, your expensive new mountain bike that almost got your thrown out of the house, the fact that your cat can't have bowel movements without having Vaseline on her butt, etc. (or any of that other stuff that if any runner ever reads my blog and recognizes my examples will probably get me punched at the next run).

Like the last race I ran though, I found good company in another runner and he couldn't have appeared at a better time as a young guy named Victor, who I learned is a middle school teacher in Erie. Our paces became joined just after the 32 mile aid station and the friendly banter for the next miles was just what the doctor ordered. We didn't talk loudly or continually and we talked to amuse ourselves, not to hold conversations that belong at Starbucks. Running with him was like having a pacer and it was right where I needed one. These were the miles that chewed me up last year. I told him how I struggled there last year and every time we approached another dreaded hill, it really wasn't that bad. I was benefitting from my conservative start and my mental state stayed level and I was getting through with little suffering. We were in and out of the 38 mile aid station at the same time, but he needed to pull off to answer the call of nature and planned to perform some basic toenail maintenance at the 46 mile aid station so I never saw him again or more importantly thank him properly for pacing me through the mental-mess miles - I'm sure he had no idea how much he helped me.
Oh look, another hill.

The beauty of The Laurel Highlands Trail is immense and difficult to describe and unfortunately most of it is missed when running. Ferns line much of the trail and the further went north, the ferns seemed to increase to monstrous sizes. The trail sneaks through boulder piles, around a lake, right through Seven Springs Ski Resort and over The PA Turnpike. There's a section of side-hill that cuts across the face of a hill lined by ferns and they seem to grow parallel to the ground beneath them. So imagine that there are ferns on either side of a trail on the slope of a hill, they're above and below you and because of the way their frons hang above the earth, they create optical illusion that makes you think you need to lean with them (maybe I was just hallucinating) - in any event, I made myself focus on trees; knowing they were indeed growing vertically/no more leaning required (I'm sure not a single reader at this point believes I have an ounce of sanity left - you really do have to see it for yourself). I've read the trail guide and I know I missed so much of it's beauty, so I plan that the next time I visit I'll be carrying a camera, wearing a legit backpack and taking days instead of hours to complete its 70 miles.

An ancient cemetery along the trail.

I can't talk about the trail without this year mentioning the mud. It rained across Pennsylvania most of the week leading up to the event. Friday as we headed into Ohiopyle, we had a local radio station on that was announcing an approaching damaging storm. The commentator described down pours and damaging winds and they were now on their way to the area. So just like last year, when we checked into the hotel, it was pouring and man did it pour! All that rainfall combined with the Friday afternoon grand finale guaranteed 70 miles of mud on Saturday. Some of it was slippery, some of it was puddles and some of it was that ankle deep stuff that pulls at your shoes as you slop through it. I was following a guy up a steep climb who had zero traction in his Hoka's and kept slipping. I passed more than one runner sitting on the ground putting their shoes back on after retrieving them from the mud that had just removed them. One runner, who this was his 8th running of the event, said this was the muddiest he had ever seen it. Yes, mud is part of it, you  have to expect it to some extent. The Salomon Speedcross shoes I wore were perfect for those conditions so I thankfully kept the mud at mostly an amusement level.

In the 50's, I was slowing slightly, walking the steeps, but mostly still running. I did begin to recognize runners I remembered leaving me on those initial climbs. Unfortunately, one of them was Todd. We weren't far from the 57 mile aid station, he was walking and told me he had bonked, needing some solid food. I moved on knowing that Ben would be waiting for him up ahead. I could to give Ben the heads up to make sure Todd could refuel and keep going. Soon I ran into Danny Mowers(not running it this year) instead and he was looking for Todd who was past due. I gave him the details and he was off to find him. Janice was waiting at the aid station and I told her that I agreed that dry clothing was a good idea. The breeze had cooled the air and wet muddy clothing was beginning to bother me in a cold kinda' way. She was happy I saw it her way and when I told her I'd also like to change my shoes, she replied confidently "I have them too". While changing, Todd and Danny strolled in. Janice had found the Sheetz (convenience store) that apparently time had forgotten and she had chicken tenders. I had one and she offered the same to starving Todd. With just a shirt change he was out of the aid station well ahead of me. Sitting down and taking my time to change everything except my compression shorts turned into an excellent break from the perpetual movement. I added a light wind jacket over a sleeveless and I was back on the trail, encouraged that it still wasn't quite dark yet.

Smiling, I know I only have a half marathon to go.

Dry clothes at 57 miles.

One last gulp of Coca-Cola while Danny Mowers chills
and waits for his next friend to arrive.

I soon realized I forgot two bottles I wanted to carry, but decided I'd be fine without them(my only real mistake on the day- I think). Not much longer and I saw Todd again and he was sort of stopped talking to another runner. When I passed he reached out and said hello and I almost lost my balance(klutz). I was anxious to reach the gas line road and the next aid station at mile 62. Just knowing I would be soon be under 10 miles to go had me stoked to keep moving as quickly as I could. I did soon reach the road and the aid station. In the darkness at the aid station I recognized Charlie Ellis requesting a grilled cheese to go and he reminded me that he told me he'd see me later. Charlie had introduced himself to me on the big climb at the beginning of the day, telling me he not only read my blog, but remembered me finishing last year and recognized me this year. I was astonished by all three facts. Through much of the next miles we stuck together with another runner keeping our distance from a pair who were a talking machine up ahead of us. Charlie ducked into the ferns for relief and not much further I was eaten by a climb at the 65th mile. I felt spent. Charlie caught back up and passed with ease and I couldn't match pace with the other fella either. I was now in bumbling and stumbling mode, tripping over everything. My stabilizer muscles were fried and my lack of any existing coordination seemed much worse in the shadowy darkness. Charlie had spoken of a sub-19 hour finish for us and I watched as that became more and more unrealistic for me. Before too long I was surprised that I caught back up to the other runner who I eventually learned his name was Marvin and he was from the Baltimore area. He was now in the same condition, hoping the finish line would come to us. I promised him that I had probably tripped over 2,000 rocks since we had parted company. We laughed off our struggle together and found our way through the rocks to the finish. He had said at one point, "I'm barely moving" and approaching the finish I told him I'd give him space so he could run it in alone. When I said run, I think he thought I was nuts. He finished and got his hand shake and 70 mile post trophy from the race director and I followed shortly after. Our running day was done.

I now have bookends (with Rick Freeman, Race Director)

Janice collected me promptly and I asked her if she had gotten my last Spot message or any sleep. She said "no" to both. Knowing we were now to somehow get to Pittsburgh to visit Niece Katie, I asked, "so what's our plan?" She said, "let's go to Katie's!" Janice had already had one highly caffeinated coffee drink from the Sheetz with the chicken tenders and she was ready to go. She had also gotten ice and the beer in the Jeep was cold! She drove and I enjoyed an ice cold celebratory Yuengling Summer Wheat. After one more stop at a Sheetz for another high octane coffee drink we were in Pittsburgh in no time flat. After such a long day, it was great to see Katie. I was embarrassingly filthy so it was especially great to see her shower...that showerhead is amazing, but that's a blog post all its own(I'll let Janice write that one - she installed the shower head after all).

This year's trip on The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail was magical. It was so good that it makes me forget the pain of the previous year. Sure I finished 30 minutes faster than last year and that's cool, but most importantly I feel I ran much smarter and we had a good day. Janice was as usual the highlight of my day. Knowing that I'm running in beautiful mountains with her waiting for me at each checkpoint makes me smile. That was pretty much my theme on the day. I caught myself smiling all day long - pretty good sign that you're either really enjoying yourself or you belong in an institution. All the smiles on the volunteers faces made it easy as did seeing new and familiar smiles, like Leon, Todd, Ben, Danny and meeting new ones like Charlie, Victor and Marvin. And when you cross the finish line at whatever hour you arrive, Rick Freeman the Race Director is there waiting for you and he's smiling too.

The smiles continued into Sunday at lunch with Katie at The Porch in Pittsburgh.

My only real let down of the day was a technological one and I didn't really let it bother me. At the pace I'm able to maintain over this type of terrain and distance, it's difficult to find a GPS watch with battery life long enough. I've been wearing the Ambit2 S watch by Suunto, it's an excellent device with different level GPS settings to provide longer battery life. The pinging of the satellites is what saps the battery so lessening their frequency allows the battery to go longer. The downside of that is that the watch is reaching out to space for a position update less frequent thus rounding off corners, etc. The result being that, yes my watch stayed on all 19 hours, but when I stopped it, it thought I had only traveled 63.42 miles vs. 70.5. No big deal, it's more important to me to have an unbroken track and time than the perfect distance. Besides, the little cement mile markers along the way tell the real tale. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a Suunto watch and I'm confident that some day they'll make a watch with longer battery life for us slow guys.

If you can travel 70.5 miles up and over mountains in less than 22 hours, then I greatly recommend this top notch challenge. No other event has given me anywhere near the sense of accomplishment as The Laurel Highlands Ultra.

Note: I find it funny to learn that now that this event is a qualifier for The Western States 100 Endurance Run (one of the most respected ultras in the world) finishing Laurel Highlands under 20 hours is qualification to enter the lottery to run it. I've never qualified for The Boston Marathon which if you believe the media is every runners Mecca, but now I've qualified for what I consider a truly big deal...sadly most of those misguided media folks have probably never even heard of Western States. [No, I have no plans to enter, but it feels good to know...]

Stuff I used:

Salomon Speedcross 3 Shoes
Salomon XR Mission Shoes
The North Face GTD Sleeveless Shirt (2)
The North Face Better Than Naked Wind Jacket
Brooks Rogue III Running Shorts (2)
Under Armour Seemless Compression Shorts
CEP Compression Calf Sleeves
Zensah Ultra Compression Calf Sleeves
Injini TRAIL 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew Socks (2)*
Headsweats GU Energy Labs Race Cap
Headsweats Race Cap
Headsweats Supervisor
Nathan Performance HPL 020 Hydration Vest
Nathan Performance Endurance Hydration Vest (discontinued)
Suunto Ambit2 S GPS Watch
Spot Messenger GPS Transmitter
Body Glide Anti Chafe
Body Glide Skin
GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Drink
GU Roctane Gels
GU Electrolyte Capsules

*Injinji socks were a change for me for this year and I'd be remiss to not mention them. Last year I wore DryMax and Darn Tough socks and all 10 of my toenails were damaged and eventually lost. This year with Injinji, I have one toenail that's a little sore, but I attribute it to toeing a large rock in full stride. Injinji socks work, try 'em!

Fun photos from Janice's day crewing:

Old School/New School


The other covered bridge...

You lookin' at me?


Cool rock.

~4 ultras in 4 months - time to take a break!
~ nothing more for me till The Susquehanna Super Hike in September

Obelisk Head

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Dirty German 50k - Redemption Run

May 18, 2014

Last year - The Dirty German 50k - 2013 - I arrived sick to the start line after very little sleep, rolled my ankle/fell around mile 8 and went off course following another runner up a wrong hill on the 2nd lap. My goals this year were to right those three wrongs.

2014 was off to a lame start for me - after difficult training conditions through the winter, March saw a weak finish at the HAT Run 50k and April delivered my first DNF when I packed it in after only 64 miles of the C&O Canal 100. I run these races for fun and that's it. I love to run and I train enough that I can beat cutoff times and finish. Not finishing last month felt like absolute crap. Last year The Dirty German served as a tune up for The Laurel Highlands Ultra and this year too, but to say I came to this event in need of some reaffirmation is very much an understatement.

Lasagna for supper and early to bed, meant I felt great rolling out at 3:45am for breakfast. I drove to Philly this year, last year I rode along in the passenger seat falling in and out of sleep in a cold sweat most of the way. Pinned on my number and feeling great for the start, Goal #1 was in the bag.

I ran into Tim Nash while we were picking up our race packets, we exchanged pre-race "how ya' doings?" and we were on our way. Oddly I saw Tim a short time later hustling down the sidewalk still wearing the blue jeans I saw him in earlier and carrying his race packet. I jokingly asked him if he was running in those jeans, only to learn that he was freaking out because he couldn't find where his buddy had moved the car. I assured him he had plenty of time till the start as he ran off searching. The same thing happened to me last year when Janice had to move the car. Thankfully my anxiety was brief as she had just moved across the street and I found her quickly. Tim said he had already been down and back in both directions with no luck. [parking at this event is a little challenging as it's along the street and not in the park, but I didn't see any cars parked too far from the start/finish - I've seen worse parking setups]

Just before the start I caught up with Rick Martin from Hummlestown, this was his first 50k and he was a bundle of excitement/anxiety to get the show on the road. Saw Tim again too and this time he was dressed to run and his heart rate was back to normal, he had obviously found the car. Off we went across the damp park lawn, crossed the Pennypack Creek by bridge and made a quick U-turn onto the trail and into the woods. Rick had said he wished he had thought to pack a drop bag in case he wanted dry socks after the first lap. I told him, I remembered a big puddle from last year, but other than that I couldn't remember water on the trail. We were quickly greeted by mud and water, much of it difficult/impossible to avoid and now I felt pretty stupid about giving out bad info.

Off to an easy start with Rick Martin (#307) leading the way.

For the entire first mile, I ran just a couple hundred feet behind Rick and Tim, keeping them in sight, but at the same time hoping I'd slow down not wanting to try to match their much faster pace. At 1.5 miles, my worries of keeping up with them were put aside as I caught a toe on something and found myself bouncing onto my ass after banging both of my knees on rocks. My left knee especially hurt and I came away with both bleeding. So Goal #2 of not falling was now off the list. [Note: I did not hit my head - Janice claims that I'm so uncoordinated that every time I fall I hit my head - when I got to my feet this time I actually mumbled out loud, "cool, I didn't hit my head"]

Notice the color coordinated red trim on my shorts.

The fall didn't take me out of the race, if anything it gave me the opportunity to collect myself and settle into a sustainable pace. I consider this an easy course so I planned to run the easy sections aggressively and "manage" through the tougher sections. We had plenty of rain the days leading up to the event and the trail was quite muddy and a stream that last year was barely ankle deep was up to your shorts if you didn't use the stepping stones. [Note: I typically just plow right through water avoiding stepping stones for fear of slipping and falling - on lap #2 I saw a woman do just that - she was tip toeing the stepping stones and soon found herself sitting on the stream bed, soaked.] That ice cold water felt great on my aching knees and it also did a nice job of washing the blood out of my white calf sleeves. I came to the intersection where I missed the turn last year and recognized it immediately, thinking to myself "remember this on the second lap" - I did, and Goal #3 of not getting lost was achieved. (For those counting, yes I achieved 2 of my 3 goals)

The aid stations at this event are great and it's definitely because of the people/volunteers. It seems they're all runners so they know your needs and they know how to talk to you. My hat's off to The Pagoda Pacers![you'll find the aid stations at the Blues Cruise 50k in October manned by those same great folks]

Chomping down a gel coming into to an aid station.

Pre-race anxiety gone - Tim Nash on cruise control.

Janice met me at or near each of the aid stations to swap handhelds(by now she's a pro at crewing and getting me through races - at this event she was so laid back about it she bordered on nonchalant). I carried a Nathan Quick Draw Plus with GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink and GU Roctane Energy Gels in the pouch. I had salt tablets and GU Electrolyte Capsules in my pockets. I ate a peanut butter & jelly sandwich once and drank a bunch of Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew at the aid stations. I think I maintained my nutrition pretty well, sticking to my hourly gel/electrolyte capsule dose and salt tablets on the off half hour. A huge meal Saturday night and a good breakfast helped to avoid glycogen debt which I'm pretty sure ended my day early at the C&O Canal 100.  At about 27 miles, I was going pretty good when I felt that tell tale pre-cramp twinge in my right inner thigh so I backed off a bit and ate salt. When you feel the twinge you're usually too late to battle it with salt, but it seemed to subside and I was even able to pick my pace back up (just in time for the nagging little hills just before the finish).

Perry the social runner! :-)

I've said before that I'm a loner when running and that running with others actually messes with my head, but this day was different. There was a young guy who I learned his name was Ethan who passed me so many times we lost count. With Janice's help I was going through aid stations faster than him so he'd spend much of the next section catching back up to me only to do it again at the next aid station and that continued all day. In fact with about 2 miles to go, I sensed a runner behind me on a tight single track section and I soon heard, "I'm baa-ack" and yep Ethan again had caught back up. (When our day-long game of leap frog was over I ended up finishing about 30 seconds behind him). For a good distance I was running with a small bunch (4 or 5) runners (including Ethan) and the chatter amongst these nut jobs was actually fun. Joking and cutting up and I actually enjoyed running with them. They weren't going on about their freakin' PR's or having some innocuous mundane conversation that belongs on the phone or at a Starbucks and not on a trail. They seemed comfortable with spending extra time at the final aid station and I lost contact with them there(except of course for ever-present Ethan). So take note, Perry the anti-social runner made a huge break through and enjoyed the company of strangers while running.

Coming in for the finish (the head above the clock is ever-present Ethan)

Coming into the finish, there was a pretty big crowd there yelling and cheering. I couldn't pick out Janice anywhere and I was concerned she hadn't been able to find parking because of all the people in the park. Over the accordion player's polka(who I'm really bummed I didn't get my photo with) I heard Janice's voice. I also heard another familiar voice and I was pleasantly surprised to spot Janice and her sister Debbie <pretty darned cool> who lives very nearby the park cheering me on as I arrived at the finish chute. I couldn't have been happier with this finish, yes it's an easy course, but most importantly I kept myself on the edge and managed it for the distance. I didn't blow up and I didn't phone it in. I finished something like 25 minutes faster than last year, being the quickest I've run that distance and that helped to deliver some much needed reaffirmation that I might actually be a runner.

This course is perfect for the first timer or for someone who's looking for a fast training run. Elevation gain is minimal and it's 100% runnable. There's single track, double-track and water crossings. There may be a bit more pavement than you'd expect in a trail run, but sometimes you need it to simply to piece together otherwise disconnected trails. This year it was quite wet and muddy. I wore Salomon Speedcross 3's that I'm breaking in and was afraid they'd be overkill, but with the sloppy conditions they were perfect. The Dirty German offers three distances, 25k(1 lap), 50k(2 laps) and 50 miles (3 laps+). This year the race director Stephan Weiss decided on a 30 minute staggered start with the 50 milers going off first, then 50k and 25k last. While that may have caused headaches for race workers and timing, the decision got a thumbs up from me as it ensured less crowded trails. (I must say I was impressed to be caught by the 25k leaders near the end of my first lap - they were absolutely flying) Penny Pack Park is funny that's it's situated within an urban environment and it comes with everything an urban park/trail would have - fishermen, horseback riders, girls hanging out drinking a Miller Lite 30 pack in the middle of the day, the smell of wafting marijuana smoke, randomly discarded clothing and this year there was even a skull and a portion of spine of some sort of animal as a trail-trip-hazard. You're running through beautiful forest, but at times hearing horns blowing and sirens responding. The position of the park does make it easy to get to and easy for those who may come with you to find their way to aid stations if they so desire. The finish line food was tasty(I had yummy German Potato Salad and Brat Wurst w/sour kraut) and the finisher swag included a beer glass, bar towel and choice of a running cap or backpack(I got a hat last year so this year I went home with a backpack - sweet!). The only negative on the day: last year I wore a Garmin 310XT and this year I used the Suunto Ambit2 S and I was disappointed to see both GPS watches measured the 50k course as short(30.14 miles), in fact without getting lost, this year was a half mile shorter than last.

>Next up, The Laurel Highlands Ultra next month and then I'll take a break before running The Susquehanna Super Hike in September and the Oil Creek 100 in October.<